When life keeps derailing your motivationMar 11, 2021
You know that feeling when you're just getting motivated to do that thing you’ve been telling yourself you want to do - whether it be start making some changes in your life, focusing more on your own wellbeing, starting a business or other new project.. Whatever it is…
You’ve been waiting for the motivation to start, it FINALLY comes and you feel great.
You’re excited, you start diving into it head first…. and then and whammo! Life throws something at you that completely mucks up the works -- maybe it's a busy summer or a vacation or someone getting sick or work getting crazier than usual or knee/foot/back/hip pain -- or maybe it just ends up being harder and taking longer than you expected --- whatever it is, doesn't it always seem to happen?!
Motivation strikes, you’re excited, in a good groove and something happens that makes you throw your hands up and give up.
And we blame whatever thing popped up this time for our "falling off track again".
That’s what we’re talking about today… what are we supposed to do when life keeps getting in the way?
The answer to that question is an important one - because the thing is, there is ALWAYS something and there will always BE something.
That, my friend, is life.
But the truth is, it's not life throwing stuff in our way that determines whether we're successful or not--it's what we think, feel and do when life throws stuff in our way that determines the outcome.
And that's a huge distinction, a huge distinction that’s unbelievably empowering because it teaches us that we don't have to be unwilling victims to our circumstances.
Throwing our hands up and giving up the minute something doesn’t go perfectly is a choice - a choice that we can choose to stop making.
No matter what is going on around you, you and you alone have the power to decide whether or not you allow it to derail you.
You know me, I always want to look at the why before we do anything… so let's look at some the reasons I've noticed this happen:
Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of what people will think, fear of not being good enough, whatever it may be, fear is often a HUGE reason people let everything and anything become an excuse to let whatever they’re working on get derailed. And fear is a sneaky one because fear usually comes disguised as excuses that feel completely real and valid. So consider, how many excuses are you making to quit or postpone or procrastinate? What fears are hiding beneath them and do want that thing bad enough to keep going anyway, to push your way through the fear - because that’s really what has to happen if fear is the culprit.
Second, it’s what our brains just do
The thing about the brain is--when it's presented with a problem (say you start a new “healthy eating attempt” or whatever) and everyone in the house starts coming down with the flu one by one… all of a sudden you can’t seem to stop yourself from living elbow deep in the bag of cookies all day.
When the brain is presented with a problem its entire goal is to look for the quickest, easiest, solution. That means it stops putting energy into anything new and different you're trying to do because that's just too draining. It immediately focuses all its energy on the task at hand--quick and easy solution for survival.
Any new goals or habits we set become completely unimportant because falling back into old habits and running on autopilot is easiest and the brain wants easy!
That's not being lazy or a failure or screwing up, that's literally our brains doing what they're programmed to do to keep us alive.
And every time our brains "solve a problem" with quick and easy, it creates and wires new neurons associated with that problem so that the next time that problem presents itself, it can quickly scan its neurons for the solution and run with it instantly -- autopilot, basically.
Here's how that looks:
Brain: "Uh oh... i'm super overwhelmed and exhausted because the kid was up coughing all night and if I have to listen to one more cough I'm going to LOSE IT!... need a solution to cope NOW!"
*searches neurons for a solution that's been used in the past to deal with exhaustion and overwhelm, etc*
"OHHH... there it is... comfort fooooood... ahhhhh..." (or wine or whatever your brain has been programmed to use for managing exhaustion or overwhelm or whatever with)
And thus, the best intentions in the world are derailed, not because you're weak or lack willpower or anything of the sort, but because your brain is responding on autopilot with how it's been programmed and actually WIRED for often decades, to respond.
That's just one example but it applies to literally everything in your life.
The good news is that in the same way those neurons were created, you can create new ones and actually REWIRE your brain with new, better solutions to those problems for it to rely on. That’s what Cognitive Eating was created to help you do.
Third, you’re trying to rely on motivation
After coaching and training people for over ten years, I have to admit, I cringe every time I hear the word motivation - trying to rely on motivation to get anything done is a recipe for getting nowhere because motivation never, ever lasts forever. If you’re relying on motivation, you’re always going to eventually quit because at some point, the motivation is going to fade.
Fourth: not being truly connected or aligned with our deeper why.
Imagine being dropped into the middle of the woods with no shelter, food or water.
How hard would you work to do whatever it took to get some - or to find your way out? You wouldn’t sit around on a tree stump waiting for motivation, you’d bust ass. Why?
Because there’s a pretty big why behind wanting those things - your survival depends on them. Now, your survival may not depend upon whatever thing you keep trying to get motivated to do but the point remains - your why needs to be big enough to keep you going no matter how hard it gets.
For example, my fitness journey started because I hated myself and my why stemmed from desperation to find some peace and self-acceptance. My recovery journey stemmed from fear that I was legitimately going to eat myself to death if I didn’t heal.
I’m still here doing this work because I am driven, with everything in me, to create a shift in the way our world thinks about and approaches this whole healthy living, weight obsession thing. It drives me unlike anything else.
My why’s have always been deeply connected with what really matters to me ...so no matter what life throws in my path or how scared I get - and holy cow do I get scared, a lot - I keep going.
If your why is superficial and not deeply connected with what matters most to you in life, you’re always going to easily be thrown off course.
So, what can we do about it?
First, before you start anything ask yourself some pivotal questions…. WHY is this important to you? Why do you want it?
Ask yourself why you keep getting derailed in the first place. Have you ever really considered that? What causes the derailing? Do any of the possible reasons I listed resonate with you? Is it something else maybe?
Get real with yourself and ask, is this a burning desire so strong that I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get there… for as long as it takes?
Are you willing to address the things that might be causing me to keep getting derailed? If your brain is wired to rely on food for everything, for example… are you prepared to start working on rewiring that? On changing the internal things that may contribute to your getting derailed?
Are you prepared to push your way through the fear? Are you willing to keep going even when it gets hard?
And expect that it’s going to get hard. Expect that you’re not always going to feel motivated and make a plan for what you’ll do when that happens.
Plan for it now so you’ll be prepared with easy steps you can keep taking to move forward instead of throwing your hands up and giving up at every bump.
This gives you a chance to stop those old patterns in their tracks. It helps you feed momentum with baby steps in a constant forward direction - I guarantee that even the smallest of baby steps repeated every day will get you farther, faster than waiting around waiting for motivation, starting when it strikes, and quitting when it wanes.
If you plan for it in advance, when you notice it starting to happen again, you’re in control. You’re not a victim to whatever life throws at you, you’re ready for it… you’re able to recognize the old pattern and make a conscious choice to keep going.
So just to give you an example of how that looks in real life for me…
Because I’ve learned to value myself more, because I matter to me now, my wellbeing matters to me -- it’s become my first priority every day so things like needing motivation to eat right or exercise feels ludacris. Even the phrase, eat right and exercise feels ludacris to me now because it’s such a loaded statement. There’s sooo much expectation around what that is supposed to look like. I reject it all now though and I just give myself what I need every day to feel my best based on how I feel when I get up and what my day looks like.
That’s my non-negotiable every day - no matter what. First priority every day - my wellbeing today.
Second priority - my vision, my business… the way I show up and serve because those things matter to me deeply. They are also non-negotiables.
Now, that’s not to say that I’m working 16 hour days every day… some days I’m exhausted mentally and emotionally - it’s emotionally draining work - or some days I have other things going on. But I can always do SOMETHING.
At least one little thing, every day... to move me forward. For my dream, my vision, my purpose.
Every morning, I check in with me.
How do I feel? What do I need? What matters to me today? What am I going to do about it? The beautiful thing about asking how I feel first, allows me to decide how much I’ll get done each day, based on you guessed it, how I feel and what’s happening in life around me that day. That way, no matter how I feel, or what life throws at me, every morning, I’m assessing those things and making conscious choices for my day based on them AND what matters most to me.
That one switch alone, realizing that momentum and consistency beat motivation and allowing myself the grace to recognize that some days ALL the things just aren’t going to get done but I can still do at least one of the things - the willingness to be patient and move slow, sometimes even with the tiniest of baby steps, every single day - that right there has made all the difference for me, it’s how you ultimately win.
And it’s how you build confidence because you start seeing yourself follow through on the things that matter to you rather than continuing to make promises for yourself that you just end up breaking.